Dispensary tips

The dispensary's guide to budtender training and onboarding

By
Lindsay Crafford
August 24, 2022

Debatably the most important part of cannabis retail is the moment of the transaction—when money transfers from the customer to the budtender. This is, after all, the moment that everything else in retail is working towards. As a dispensary operator, your budtenders should be well-trained so that everything goes smoothly in-store.

Regardless of the approach you take to training your team, each and every one needs to be trained to be an excellent budtender to guarantee that your dispensary is providing top-notch customer service and a memorable sales experience.

What to teach your budtenders

1. Customer service skills

A well-rounded training in customer service will serve your budtenders well. Here are some of the skills they’ll need:

General friendliness. General friendliness is essential. Your budtenders should smile and greet customers. They should have a positive and upbeat demeanor throughout the interaction to ensure the customer has a remarkable experience.

Cross-selling. Your budtenders will probably be the last person to speak to the customer before the sale is officially closed, meaning they have a crucial chance to confirm the customer has found everything they need or to add-on to the sale.

Budtenders who are catering to customers picking up online orders should ask the customer if they’d like to add any last-minute items. They should also be trained to ask customers if they’re interested in purchasing whatever small ”impulse buys” are at the counter. At a cannabis dispensary, this typically includes lighters and rolling papers.

Handling angry customers. In any retail environment, storefronts are the first stop for returns or concerns, and therefore, angry customers. Equip your budtenders with the skills (mainly active listening skills) to diffuse situations and turn your angry customer into a happy one. Get them up to speed on popular phrases of courtesy, too.

2. Compliance

It’s mission-critical that your budtenders know your policies inside and out—particularly when it comes to staying compliant as it relates to sales and returns. A budtender who doesn’t understand compliance, for example, could cost you a lot of money at best, and jeopardize your cannabis license at worst.

3. Actual use of the software (processing the sale)

Of course, your budtenders must learn how to work your cannabis point of sale hardware and software in order to process a sale (or return). The skills involved here will be, among other things:

  • Logging into the software
  • Initiating a sale
  • Looking up customers and their previous purchases
  • Looking up products
  • Initiating a return
  • Accepting digital/cashless payments
  • Handling cash: giving change and checking for counterfeit bills
  • Reloading the receipt paper correctly
  • Processing gift cards
  • Applying promotions

4. Working the point of sale

Your budtenders will need to know how to run some of the administrative elements of your cannabis POS to varying degrees. For your most trusted staff, you’ll likely want to teach them how to close out a register and run sales reports. Some cannabis dispensaries find it most efficient for all their budtenders to be able to close out.

How to train your budtenders

1. Use training materials from your vendor

One of the first things you should do is sit your new budtender down with any training resources that your software vendor may offer. (Hey, Dutchie customers: here’s ours!)

These resources will provide a good baseline for your new budtenders to understand how the software will generally work. This will save you some time, but it will also ensure that you help employees of all learning styles actually get your software down pat.

2. Make it easy for them to get familiar with price look ups (PLUs) and stock keeping units (SKUs)

For dispensary staff, it can prove to be a real time-saver to know product codes off the top of their heads, rather than having to look it up every time they ring. Giving your budtenders sheets or flashcards to help their memorization during off-hours can be a helpful training practice.

3. Practice!

Experience is the best teacher of all, so get your budtenders some hands-on experience next. You can walk your newest budtenders through a practice sale or two at an empty register. Don’t forget to walk them through a practice return, too.

4. Have them shadow your best budtender

Once your newbies have started to get the basics down, have them shadow your best budtender so they can see real-world “checkout” situations. Budtenders face a lot of different and often unexpected situations throughout the day and the only real way to learn is to observe or participate in them. Your best budtender can explain how policy and technical uses of the POS get applied depending on what a customer is buying or returning.

5. Start them off during off-hours (with a shadow)

Once your new budtender has spent some time watching the best, the only way left to learn is to actually get hands-on experience ringing up sales. It’s recommended that you set them up during off-peak hours, perhaps wearing a badge that lets customers know this budtender is brand new (and asks for their patience).

You’ll also want to have someone shadow them for the first couple of sales, just to be sure everything is flowing well. And even when that person stops actively shadowing, they should remain close by when the new budtender has a question (as they inevitably will).

6. Provide customer service training

Role-playing. Role-playing is a perennial favorite for customer service training because it allows you to create a low-stakes hands-on learning environment, and ultimately customer service skills are best learned through experience. In the words of retail expert Bob Phibbs, “the more role-playing your team has under their belt, the less likely they’ll sell from their own wallet, give bad customer service, or be stymied by some of the more margin-improving retail sales techniques like adding-on.”

Teach your budtenders the essentials of greeting and conversing. That means teaching them small talk phrases and finding or creating common ground with your customers. You can go over these skills in role-playing and/or give your budtenders scripts to learn.

7. Set realistic goals

You’ll want to set some realistic goals for how quickly your sales associates should be able to learn how to work the register efficiently. Consider the following.

  • The amount of time it should take to learn the register. You can be generous here, but something like 40 hours is a very reasonable amount of time it should take for someone to get up and running on easy-to-use software.
  • Items/minute goals. Once your budtender is up and running, if your dispensary is high-volume enough, you can set goals on ringing efficiency to continually make certain your budtenders are keeping up with your standards.

The bottom line

Training your budtenders is a necessary process, but good training combined with great hires will result in an efficient closing experience that will keep customers coming back for more. A positive interaction with a budtender can leave a lasting impression on a customer and increase their loyalty to your dispensary.

And if you want to make life even easier for your budtenders, adopt a user-friendly cannabis point of sale system like Dutchie POS. Our sleek, intuitive interface is easy to navigate and allows budtenders to ring up sales and take digital payments so they can keep the lines moving and provide a great customer experience.

Contact us for a demo today!

About the author
Lindsay Crafford
Sr. Content Marketing Manager @ Dutchie